One Last Time


This post was originally published through Patreon on December 4, 2018.

Daniel wanders into the park he once frequented as a child. The time is exactly 5:45 p.m. He sits on the oak bench where, as a boy, he used to watch the other kids play and, huddling into himself against the cold, he stares into the sky.

Tomorrow, everything will change. Tomorrow, the life he once knew will be stripped away. It is a time of mourning, a time of sadness, a time of profound and sorrowful reflection.

By now, his fellows have positioned themselves at strategic locations around the world, and at 12:00 a.m. tomorrow, they’ll break the world and remake it in their own image. The change will not be gradual, and the people of the Earth will have no time to consider how their lives might have turned out differently. Daniel’s kind will peer into the sky—much as Daniel does now—and when the appointed time arrives, they’ll raise their hands, close their eyes, utter the sacred words, and when they open their eyes again, the world will be different.

Daniel doesn’t think the change will be for the better, but his companions have already made their decision and there’s no way he can stop them. Sometimes, he wonders how things could have played out if humanity had taken them in instead of casting them off to the outer fringes of society.

Daniel, for his part, believes that there are other solutions. But his personal convictions are futile without the agreement of his companions. So he savors the harsh chill of the evening air, basks in the explosive colors of the sunsetting sky, and treasures the old world one last time.

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Lord of Darkness

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Heart stammering, tripping over roots and shrubs, I stagger forward through the dark, fog rising up around me like gunsmoke. Beyond the fog there is nothing; I do not know which way to go.

Howls sound from all directions in supplication to the Lord of Darkness, the ancient, bloodthirsty god who seeks my ruin. The hunt is on, those canine voices say, and I know that if I wish to escape, I must be fast.

Gnarled roots push up from the ground like zombies from rotten, decrepit tombs. They grab at my legs, my ankles, my feet, and in the fog-filled darkness they attempt to pull me down.

“I won’t give up,” I shout, and for a moment those howling voices grow quiet.

I can do this. I can find a way out. I can survive.

Then a rock emerges from the earth below. Where did that come from, I think after my foot makes contact and I tumble forward into the soil. But I already know the answer.

The howling resumes, a rhythmic, ceremonial ululation that sets my teeth on edge and the hairs on my neck on end. I scramble across the forest floor, desperate to find my footing once again, but the vines have already started to close around my arms and legs, slowing me down, and when I look up, gagging in the midst of the thickening fog, there stands the Lord of Darkness himself, flanked by a pair of snarling death hounds.

He takes a step in my direction. I crane my head to meet his eyes, but those creeping vines have too tight a hold and all I can see are those fabled black leather boots, covered in mud.

“You have been a worthy opponent,” he proclaims, “but now the hunt is over and it is time for me to take what’s mine.”

“No,” I say, then cough. The fog has turned hot and humid and I find that I can hardly breathe. “No,” I say again, forcing the words out. “I will not surrender.”

“No,” the Lord of Darkness agrees, “you won’t. And that’s precisely why you were chosen.”

That background howling transforms into frantic, hooting laughter, and the hounds at the ancient god’s side inch closer, muzzles stained by blood and clay.

“I’ll fight you,” I spit out, choking on air that’s turned to poison. “With my dying breath, I’ll fight you.”

The Lord of Darkness leans close, and in a conspiratorial whisper, confides, “I’m counting on it.”

Then the hounds are upon me, and soon enough the Lord of Darkness is feasting on my manic cries.

Stephen King meets Neil Gaiman in this thrilling supernatural epic.

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“A weapon of incredible power,” they said. “A technical marvel. It will crush the enemy, and in so doing, bring peace.”

I was young and idealistic and I believed them.

“Help us,” they said. “Your country needs you.”

And so I packed my bags, and when the sun set and the dark of night set in, I left everything behind and followed after them.

“Let us change you,” they said. “We’ll make you stronger, faster, more agile. With your enhanced abilities, you can wield this new weapon of ours and help us usher in an age of peace.”

Once more I believed them and, without hesitation, offered myself in service to my country.

They gave me injections to change the way I see, cast spells to alter the appearance of my skin, summoned deities to transform the way I think. One by one, they deconstructed every aspect of my being until I was no longer human, no longer a person of free will at all but a slave, and when it was done, they cast me back into a world that could no longer accept me.

I see things differently now.

Among all the people in the world, there are only strangers and enemies. The former I shun as reminders of my former life, and the latter I stalk from the shadowy underworld that’s become my new home with a terrifying clarity of purpose that haunts me whenever I close my eyes and dream of what it was like to be human.

My enemies never see me coming, not until my eyes have filled with their terrible blue light, and by then it’s already too late. I see their fear before the power inside of me is unleashed, and in those dark and desperate moments, I am forced to come to terms with what I’ve become.

I was never meant to wield their weapon.

I am their weapon.

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